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Former CPRIT executive now facing felony charge

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TWC News: Former CPRIT executive now facing felony charge
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A Travis County grand jury has indicted a former executive of the state's embattled cancer-fighting agency, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

Jerald “Jerry” Cobbs, 62, has been charged with withholding information and securing execution of a document by deception—a first degree felony. The grand jury says Cobbs, CPRIT’s former Chief Commercialization Officer, was involved in improperly awarding an $11 million grant to a company now known as Peloton.

"The indictment alleges that Cobbs deceived the CPRIT executive director and general counsel by failing to disclose that the grant proposal had not been reviewed and approved by the proper review committees as required by law," Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.

Travis County’s Public Integrity Unit opened an investigation into CPRIT shortly after the agency's oversight committee revealed the institute had awarded a grant to Dallas based company Peloton without proper review.

Cobbs was responsible for presenting the Peloton grant to the board for approval. He resigned soon after the investigation began.

"This is the conclusion of the investigating and charging phase of this case," Assistant District Attorney Gregg Cox said.

It's been a long year of restructuring and rebuilding for CPRIT. All grants from the agency were put on hold for a time and after a scathing audit, lawmakers worked to revamp the agency and installed an entirely new governing board.

"We are confident that with the measures put in place by the agency and the Legislature, CPRIT will move forward with the highest standards of governance, transparency and integrity," CPRIT's new CEO Wayne Roberts said in a statement Friday.

CPRIT is considered one of Governor Perry's signature accomplishments. The Governor also helped appoint the panel that reviewed and doled out the grants.

Cobbs’ indictment comes six months after Perry cut state funding to the Public Integrity Unit because District Attorney Lehmberg wouldn't resign after confessing to drunken driving.

Despite the funding shortfall, the investigation moved forward.

"It slowed us down somewhat. We had some reorganizing to do and lost a fair amount of staff, but we still were able to get our way through it and conclude it," Cox said.

The district attorney's office says no charges were considered against anyone connected with Peloton and no other CPRIT official has been charged.

When asked whether this had reached into the governor's office, a spokesman for the DA said they couldn't comment.

Cobbs’ first-degree felony charge is punishable by five to 99 years in jail and up to a 10-thousand dollar fine.

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